NEWARK, NJ -- Wes Welker is precisely the kind of player that makes the NFL’s crusade for concussion awareness so difficult.
Tuesday, when asked if he’d allow a concussion to keep him out of the Super Bowl, Welker answered, “What do you think? I mean, you want to be out there. The Super Bowl, this is what you dream about. You're going to be there, I don't care what it takes, you’re going to be out there in this game."
That singlemindedness and willingness to put his body in harm’s way is what’s made the greatest slot receiver to ever play. It’s also a mindset that flies directly in the face of what the league is trying to legislate away. Some people would call it a “macho” mindset the NFL fosters but really, it’s a mentality no different from the one displayed by Kerri Strug in the 1996 Olympics. Strug, performing on a badly injured ankle, competed despite the pain and stuck her vault landing helping the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team to a gold medal.
Strug is an Olympic icon. Nobody called her “macho.” They called her tough and a brave competitor and lauded her performance while dealing with pain -- though just 19-years-old.
The desire to play on through physical risk has to do with competitive instinct and reaching a pinnacle, not testosterone.
I asked Welker about the two concussions he dealt with this season that cost him three games.
“It was tough,” he acknowledged. “You wanna be out there but at the same time you want to make sure that you’re good to go. I was at a point where I was wanting to get to the playoffs. I wanted to make sure I was at a point where I could play in the playoffs and do what I can to help the team win.”
Did he consider his own football mortality a bit?
“A little bit but not really,” he admitted. “I enjoy the game so much and enjoy being out there with my teammates and having fun. I really don’t think about it.”
Asked if it’s something that’s best blocked out, Welker answered, “Yes. Exactly.”